Before I really chime in--I just took in the entire thread after avoiding it for some weird reason, and now that I've taken it in, I have to say:
This ranks as The Single Best Delurk in eGullet History.
Fabulous trip, great narrative, and I wish I had been along for the ride only because I can't taste any of what you had from this distance.
And before you go, will you answer us your own question...
BBQ - "Is it really that great?"
You know what?.....It really is Great!.......Honestly, I had my doubts....I use to ask myself what the hubbub was all about and now that I have seen it, smelled it, tasted it and experienced the smoke the heat and met the people who create it.......I can say that they make something very special down there.....it may sound cheesy, but its true.
I think its like that all over the US........I bet on the coast in Maine itís the same with, maybe......... Lobster Rolls .......I bet there are tons of places to have one and each place is unique in its own way, the cuisine is probably steeped in as much tradition as Texas BBQ.
and I am sure the south.....Memphis, KC, Atlanta, NC have something to say about the subject also.
You had asked back at the start of this thread:
Are there any other regions like this in the U.S. with such a concentration of well-known or famous bbq joints?
Regions? Probably not. And I doubt you will find anywhere else in the country with as much good BBQ per capita as the towns you visited.
But a trip to Kansas City--it's only 600 miles up I-35--will reward you with a slew of excellent places, including lots of well-known ones (Arthur Bryant's, Gates', Rosedale, Fiorella's Jack Stack) and others that have made a name for themselves lately (Oklahoma Joe's), all in a single metropolitan area. KC being a rather sprawling metropolis, you may end up doing as much driving there as you did on this trip, but you won't be covering as much territory. As big cities go, none rival Kansas City for outstanding 'cue, and I don't care what they think in Memphis.
And speaking of unique local cuisine:Do they really call them hoagies out your way?
--Sandy "Hog Island Shipyard no longer exists--it's now Philadelphia International Airport--but the sandwich it made famous lives on" SmithEdited to add:
Speaking of great writing and vivid imagery, I've got to commit to memory your phrase "napalm summer breeze". We've had more than a few of these up here in the humid Delaware Valley^W^WGreater Philadelphia region this summer.
Edited by MarketStEl, 11 August 2006 - 10:52 AM.